22 July 2018

Wild Camping in the UK


I have always enjoyed wild camping, whatever the weather. There is a real adrenalin buzz when you can hear the rain hammering on the tent, only inches away from where you are lying or the wind is buffeting the tent and you wonder whether you have put the tent pegs in deep enough.  This year though it has been different, the weather has been superb and the pleasure has come from simply ‘being there’ and, of course, the high start the following day.

Perched over Sprinkling Tarn

Perched over Sprinkling Tarn

A word about legalities.

Whilst it is illegal to wild camp in England and Wales without the land owners permission it is generally deemed acceptable, at least in our upland areas. In the Lake District and North Wales it is easy to find a camp away from the road and without inconveniencing anyone. Arrive late and leave early in the morning, leave no mess and no-one will complain. In dry weather do not light a fire. In Scotland wild camping is legal aside from the odd situation in the Lomond and Trossachs National Park where it is not.

A Perfect Setting

A Perfect Setting

A recent visit to Sprinkling Tarn

Heading up from Seathwaite on a warm summer’s evening I carried only a tent, sleeping bag, a couple of mars bars and two cans of beer. I was not planning a long walk (I needed to be back on the road at 10 am next day) and had my eye on Sprinkling Tarn. Grains Gill is always a bit of a pull. However once I arrived under the imposing cliffs of Great End, turned right and saw Sprinkling Tarn the decision to come was vindicated. 3 tents near the path signified a small group of lads enjoying the peace so I moved around towards the little island and found a perfect spot.

Views towards Great End

Views towards Great End

Tent up in 5 minutes with the opening overlooking the tarn and on to the steep dome of Great Gable. It was a view to die for. I arrived just before 9 so settled in to my sleeping bag (it is always surprisingly nippy when lying on the ground), opened the first can of beer and simply enjoyed the peace, views and solitude of a special place. The sun had dipped below Gable but was still creating shadows on the fell side when I shut the tent door and fell asleep.

One of the great advantages of a wild camp is an early start. At 7ish I devoured the final mars bar, packed the tent and headed past Esk Hause. The aim was the rough ridge from Allen Crags to Glaramara. In the morning light and most importantly before the heat of the day I picked my way along the ridge.  The views and the feeling of being on my own so early was immensely satisfying.

Mist at Sprinkling Tarn

Mist at Sprinkling Tarn

A memorable Scottish wild camp

A few years ago whilst climbing the Munros I headed on to the Cairngorm plateau for a long weekend. My plan was to camp at the Currour Bothy after the first day on Macdui and its neighbors. I would then head up on the long ridge over Cairn Toul to Braeriach returning via the exceptionally remote top of Tom Dubh. Unfortunately on arrival at the bothy and brewing up I was assaulted by the midge. When I say assaulted anyone who knows camping in Scotland will understand exactly what I mean.

Above Loch Dee

Above Loch Dee

The midge made it impossible to stay at the bothy so I packed up and climbed the steep slopes to the south. I left my pack at over 3,000 feet on the col between the Devil’s Point and Cairn Toul and wandered up the few hundred feet to the summit of Devil’s Point. I sat there for over an hour enjoying the late evening views, undoubtedly one of my most memorable Munro moments.

Back at the col I climbed in to my sleeping bag and lay on the old orange bivvy bag I used to carry. Bracken, my dog, was tied to my pack and in the middle of the night started barking. I have no idea for what but there was something about! It was my highest and probably the best of many wild camping spots I have enjoyed over the years.

Kingshouse, Glencoe

Kingshouse, Glencoe

I recommend it to anyone!

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